Kolkata: With the BJP breathing down her neck, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has offered a slew of doles in her election manifesto, a marked departure from her previous poll document in 2016.
In a first for West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) manifesto, released by the Chief Minister at her official residence at Kalighat Wednesday, has promised an universal income scheme for weaker sections of society.
Under the scheme, the state government will transfer Rs 500 a month for the underprivileged and weaker sections in the general category. For Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste families, the monthly amount is Rs 1,000 or Rs 12,000 a year.
“To continue to help people, for the first time, every family in Bengal will be extended a minimum basic income,” the chief minister said while releasing the manifesto.
“Under this scheme, 1.6 crore eligible general category families will be given a monthly cash transfer of Rs 500. SC/ST category families will be given a monthly cash transfer of Rs 1,000. The direct transfers will be made to the women heads of families.”
The TMC manifesto has also promised to increase financial assistance to farmers from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000 a year. This appears to be a bid by the ruling party to counter repeated announcements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Bengal’s farmers will get PM-Kisan grants with arrears if the BJP wins the polls.
West Bengal is the only state in the country to stay away from the central government scheme, launched in December 2018, which ensures Rs 6,000 a year for farmers.
The 2021 manifesto is distinctly different from the poll document that the party released before the 2016 assembly elections.
The 2016 manifesto focused on the government’s achievements of the previous five years, without any announcement related to major cash benefit schemes.
Mamata, who said that the party has got the Election Commission’s approval for the manifesto, also announced a special credit card for students.
“In the coming days, to enable higher education for all eligible students, a new student credit card scheme will be introduced,” the CM said. “This credit card will have a credit limit of Rs 10 lakh with an interest rate of only 4 per cent. There will be a provision of easy repayment so that the students do not have to depend on their parents.”
A senior party leader said the scheme is aimed at first-time voters.
“We have also tried to make women voters financially comfortable. Didi thought of them. She told us that the women of the house should have some savings for themselves. So we will release the cash to them,” said the senior Trinamool leader, who worked closely with the chief minister in drafting the manifesto. Bengal has 49 per cent women voters this time.
Apart from the cash schemes, the chief minister has also promised to have rations delivered at every household.
“In the coming days the new facility under Khadya Sathi scheme will ensure delivery of monthly ration to 1.5 crore families at their doorstep,” she said.
Trinamool MP Sougata Roy said the manifesto will ensure social security in the state. “This is a forward-looking manifesto. We talk so much about social security but no government ensures that,” Roy said.
“Mamata Banerjee did what Modi could not do in the past seven years. This will have a great impact on the people and it will help all.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)